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Covid 19 catastrophisation

Written By: - Date published: 1:05 pm, August 24th, 2020 - 43 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

Dear reader.  Feel, thanks to the catastrophisation of New Zealand’s quarantine system by National and parts of the media, that we are living in a cluster f&%k?

This is even though the indications are that the large cluster that may have formed appears to have come from an infection point not related to anyone in quarantine and the second solitary infection came from the inopportune pressing of an elevator button.

If you think things are bad in Aotearoa you should see what is happening in Australia. Last night TVNZ has this really interesting programme on it.

[tweet https://twitter.com/farmgeek/status/1297482597941956608]

Short version it makes New Zealand’s response look perfect. Australia’s quarantine system has failed because they were not doing the things that we have been done locally.  And if you really want to lean something that will shake you, it is estimated that 2,400 health workers in Victoria have contracted the virus, although most infections occurred out of work.

The proof is in the figures.  For instance yesterday New Zealand had three new cases, one in the community and linked to the existing cluster and two being returning kiwis.  Thankfully no one died.

By way of contrast Melbourne had 207 new cases and 17 deaths.  Recently daily infection rates have spiked to over 700.  Melbourne has a similar population to New Zealand.

Donald Trump has also engaged in this catastrophisation of New Zealand’s efforts.  The Young Turks has this scathing take down of what he was saying.

There are questions being asked about why comprehensive testing of quarantine workers has not been rolled out more quickly.  I suspect the answer relates to the need to priortise attention and resources in a time of an emergency and the need to reconcile mandatory testing with the sharing of a finite resource and to reconcile it with the rights of workers.

The media attention in part is helpful in that it is driving changes to the system but the tales of doom and gloom are really overblown.  As an example this collation of views by Bryce Edwards uses “botch-up” nine times.  This is a really tricky virus and it appears that every time a call is made what is “safe” treatment of the virus and of potential contamination the precautions are made more stringent. Post event reviews and armchair epidemiology is not helpful. The media have the right and role to ask the tough questions. But some of the catastrophisation is excessive and unhelpful.

Laila Harre yesterday gave the perfect response.

[tweet https://twitter.com/Elbow49065887/status/1297322764429168640]

Meanwhile National’s response is interesting. Dr Shane Reti is being trotted out and is adopting a very reasonable conspiracy free approach to the matter.  And over the past couple of days Judith Collins and Gerry Brownlee have disappeared.

Today will be interesting.  I suspect that the temptation to go to level 2 on the basis that contract tracing appears to have been working and the rate of new infections is tailing off will be strong.  But time will tell.

43 comments on “Covid 19 catastrophisation ”

  1. Ad 1

    Mickey we are at the very edges of what can be tolerable in our current democracy.

    If there wasn't a very big problem at the border, the government wouldn't have had to put Sir Brian Roche and Heather Simpson in there to fix it. They've already fired a Minister of Health, and then had to install the armed forces twice over.

    We had a citizen have to take the government to court to see if the worst loss of our civil libertyieswe've had as citizens since World War 2 was actually legal – and it was shown to have been worth the test in court.

    We have had our election delayed because the virus was not controlled.

    We are about to lose Parliamentary oversight of any political response – either through the House questions or through Select Committee.

    We have roadblocks stopping 1.7 million people from being able to travel as citizens inside their own country.

    The above puts us in a martial law state far harsher than we faced in the Springbok Tour riots or any Vietnam march.

    A third of the country's jobs and businesses are under threat through Auckland being in Level 3, and on these numbers likely to remain so. And will take years to recover.

    So, to see through the bullshit and smiles, all we have left to contest it is the media – and the Opposition.

    On balance I don't mind if the Opposition don't play ball and lose their shit sometimes.

    • Stuart Munro 1.1

      I don't mind if the Opposition don't play ball and lose their shit sometimes

      Nor do I, in no small part because the public will punish them if they indulge in gratuitously bad or foolish behaviour.

      I am less tolerant however, of the shrieking media harpies that sat mum during catastrophies like Christchurch, and that do not at present face a comparable public interest audit. If they cannot lift their game the MoH should exclude them from the update press conference – they can ask their questions in writing, without the temptations of staged melodramas like “Given the repeated failures of the testing system under your leadership, shouldn't you take some responsibility and offer your resignation?

    • infused 1.2

      that's a good, balanced summary.

    • JanM 1.3

      You remind me of my 2 year old self when my grandmother was holding on tight to me in a runaway tram in Brooklyn – I was too busy throwing a tantrum to notice or care that what she was doing was to save my life! Really!!

    • mickysavage 1.4

      Thanks Ad. Good to see debate alive and well on TS!

      A few of questions:

      1. Which country do you think NZ should emulate?

      2. Do you agree that the court said everything was legal except the part involving the drafting of a too passive initial Health Act notice?

      3. Do you agree that our handling of the virus is better than any other nation except for Taiwan?

      4. The parliamentary response – do you agree it is a matter of timing and the election cycle and more reason to get it done and dusted?

      • Ad 1.4.1

        1. We've been exposed as a brittle state that has relied too much on distance, a few control points, and trust. So the country New Zealand should have emulated was New Zealand, about a year ago when we determined to eradicate MBovis at the cost of about a billion dollars. That and the meningitis outbreaks were our dry run.

        2. "everything was legal except…" when the Government strips your civil rights they should pre-emptively release an opinion from the SG. If National were in power suspending that much of our human and civil rights I would be expecting you'd be up there in the High Court and we'd be crowdfunding for you.

        3. Comparisons to other countries are silly when we are regrettably a vulnerable, poorly defended, unhealthy, poor, undergoverned, indebted, foreign-owned, low wage country with a weak health system, and with biosecurity settings found wanting on a large scale in the only area we're supposed to be good at it: animal biosecurity .

        4. I would agree that at the time we are preparing to test the government through an election, we need evidence of a healthy functioning democracy. National are fucking loonies and wankers, but they are OUR fucking loony wankers.

        • RedLogix 1.4.1.1

          Your Point 3 nails it. Similarly to the USA, NZ has had it a bit too easy for too long. Our governance has never really been tested by a serious crisis in our lifetimes.

          Compare NZ to Taiwan and Vietnam, both of whom know what pandemics look like, were alert to their possibility, and had in place solid organisation to deal with one without having to wing it or rely on the good luck of having a good leader in place at the right moment.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.4.1.2

          Comparisons to other countries are silly when we are regrettably a vulnerable, poorly defended, unhealthy, poor, undergoverned, indebted, foreign-owned, low wage country with a weak health system, and with biosecurity settings found wanting on a large scale in the only area we're supposed to be good at it: animal biosecurity .

          Actually, they're quite viable when we compare ourselves to other nations that have been following the same neo-liberal agenda – The UK, US, most of the EU and even Australia to a degree. And we know that if we'd had National in power instead then we'd look as bad as Australia now if not like the US.

          We've done well but over the years and decades since the Rogernomoc Revolution there's been a lot of little things that have shown that we aren't doing as well as we think. The Rena disaster was one where we had to wait for the experts to arrive from half way around to the world to do something we should have been able to do ourselves. Our failing medical system as profit takes over caring for each other and the decreasing service in our rural sector as the lack of economies of scale mean that those people are not profitable for private business.

          There is much that needs to be fixed in the country that is a direct result of the neo-liberal paradigm that has seen a few get richer while the vast majority have either stayed still or gone backwards.

        • Bearded Git 1.4.1.3

          Ad-That reminds me that not only has this government done fantastically well in controlling Covid (especially given the longstanding health system funding shortages) but it has also been superb in controlling MBovis-the farmers, National and the media don't seem to be giving them much credit for this.

    • Anne 1.5

      Ad @ 1
      Relevant to what is happening in a health sense to most of the rest of the world, it reads like further catastrophisation to me.

    • McFlock 1.6

      Talking about harshness of the "martial law state" is a touch histrionic. Are the road blocks more totalitarian than the police beatings in '81? Meh. Try 1951 and the restrictions put on the wharfies. But then, of course, those were political.

      Are the current measures more extreme than during the Spanish Flu? I'm not so sure about that.

      I'd rather businesses go under than people die. But maybe that's just me.

  2. Cliopedant 2

    Politicisation by National of the Covid emergency is no surprise at all, given their desperation for power and their willingness to be unprincipled in order to achieve it. It is the gross exaggeration of headlines and commentary showing a lack of perspective by journalists and commentators that is more of a concern. There is a peculiar conceit among political journalists that they are “holding the government to account” and by doing so have inserted themselves as actors into the political process, arrogating to themselves a role that has no constitutional mandate at all. Whereas other political actors can be publicly called to explain themselves, our political journalists apparently absolve themselves from that scrutiny. Gotcha journalism and asked leading questions, often in an antagonistic tone, is more about the journalists’ egos and less about asking genuine questions to elicit information to properly inform the electorate. And if they are going to persist with holding the government to account as they claim, perhaps they could apply the same journalistic blowtorch to those aspiring to be our next government as well. In the interests of unbiased journalism, of course.

    • mike 2.1

      Perfect.

      Couldn't have said it better myself.

      Although it's exactly what I think.

      Truely, who do these upstart snearers think they are?
      Every one trying only to impress their colleagues.

      Jack Tame on Sunday was put in his place by the reasoning of all three of his guests and had no idea it was happening!

      Wanking in a bubble is another name for it.

      • mike 2.1.1

        answering my own to correct spell – sneer.

        having lived thru 10 thousand earthquakes in ch-ch I can attest that the only criticism of the incompetent leadership in the crisis was to be found in letters from the public to the editor. The Vances, Du Pleases and midgets of the airwaves had more interesting stories to focus on.

      • mike 2.1.2

        answering my own to correct spell – sneer.

        having lived thru 10 thousand earthquakes in ch-ch I can attest that the only criticism of the incompetent leadership in the crisis was to be found in letters from the public to the editor. The Vances, Du Pleses and midgets of the airwaves had more interesting stories to focus on.

  3. Just Is 3

    There's an election around the corner and the majority of Media pundants would dearly like NZ to fall back into the hands of incompetence, the National Party.

    Just lucky we still live in a democracy where the People get to decide, not the Bias Media

  4. ianmac 4

    Some would-be journalist did question Jacinda today about what was called a "Labour Election ad" because there was a 3 second sighting of Ashley Bloomfield. Asker tried to make it an issue.Really!

  5. Pat 5

    so many experts ….in hindsight

  6. Tiger Mountain 6

    Get real centrist apologists. NZ National, going by their previous statements in and out of Parliament, from Mr Bridges and Mr Muller, would have supported opening the borders early on with attendant risks.

    The “problem at the border” quite likely involves embedded neo lib managerialism and the public service model of undermining, leaking, and taking the piss by not following instructions. Yes there is a convoluted accountability process in the state sector beyond any accusations of collusion by tory toadies–but so what–clean it up.

    The lurking question is that structural neo liberalism needs burying once and for all, which matter too many people seem to need some sort of permission, “its OK to trash “Roger’n’Ruth’s” toxic legacy.

    • greywarshark 6.1

      TM

      I think that all the officials and semi-official have ben trained in anti- government attitudes and they all reinforce each other, and their jobs rely on them. I wonder if this attitude is related to our Auditor-General being forced out of office, without normal and legal measures being followed. Is that A-G a government man, rather than the appointee from UK who has tripped around playing different roles as herself, an interesting study of disengagement from reality. Is there a legal beagle going to bat for him?

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      NZ National, going by their previous statements in and out of Parliament, from Mr Bridges and Mr Muller, would have supported opening the borders early on with attendant risks.

      I would have been amazed if they even bothered closing them.

    • Patricia Bremner 6.3

      The Melbourne situation is what happens when essential services are tendered out to the lowest bidder, who then employs untrained ill paid and desperate workers, who also do part time work at other centres and become a vector for the virus.

      How quickly our Health team and Cabinet saw the infection of the maintenance man as a red flag that the private cleaning group might possibly be operating like that.

      If memory serves remuneration has since been mandated for isolation and quarantine facilities, and working at different situations controlled.

      The bringing in of the Army is a good move, as trained staff already paid well is a support for Hotel staff and Police.

      These lock down laws are mild compared with the wharf and miner's strike, where mail could be intercepted, your home entered without notice, anyone helping a striker could be imprisoned, and all resources were taken by the state.

      We are being asked to work together for the common good in the face of a damaging virus. The virus does not care about our freedoms, but would take advantage of them to spread, and that being the case we are being asked to change the way we live while we fight this.

      So those who don't see themselves as part of the collective, the "Give me freedom or give me death" group may well get the latter. Sadly they could take other innocents with them. Protesting is a right, but not when it makes protesters a vector for the virus

      As this is a Health Emergency, and not a Civil Emergency the laws apply during the state of emergency with public buy in.

      National Act and other right wing groups are trying to paint the Government as Socialist and controlling, to grow the resistance to the "Hive mind" which is a necessary tool to fight this as a nation.

      The struggle is on many fronts, health community and economic. What you did not allude to Ad, was this is Global and we are a wee boat in a world of choppy seas, and our best chance is to support each other through this with a little less self interest and more community spirit.

      BAU has changed in many ways, and reflection during lock down 1 was we valued each other, our unique country and the sense of togetherness, used the digital world to safely communicate. The rise in separations shows this has not been the case for all.

      Over 75% of us are willing to trust this Leadership to work for our best interests. Those who had power when many damaging decisions were made and not discussed much in the media, gives rise to anger in the face of their apparent forensic antagonistic behaviour now.

      This coming economic storm is hitting billionaires as well as the poor. Having a sense of community trust in our officials and leadership "to have our back" has never been so important. The growing anxiety frustration and desperation is a natural consequence of feeling helpless in the face of a threat.

      Sites like this have never been more important, as they give a method of expressing feelings and ideas. It helps to see we are not alone, and have a wide range of people discussing ideas. .Just my opinion.

  7. Kat 7

    This reported from RNZ today………

    "Mandatory isolation for positive Covid-19 cases 'shocking, paternalistic and racist…………"

    And today from the NZ Herald, right wing columnist Madeline Grant's anti Ardern and NZ govt handling of the pandemic spin in the Sunday Telegraph, a rag that was fined £30,000 in 2015 for sending an unsolicited email to hundreds of thousands of its subscribers, urging them to vote for the Conservatives.

    Voters must rebel………….

    • In Vino 7.1

      Yes – I looked to see who that Grant woman wrote for, and as soon as saw that it was the Telegraph, I wrote her off as a near-fascist. The Telegraph is very right-wing, and anything slightly socialist is labelled as Marxist…

    • mpledger 7.2

      I thinks it's more maternalistic myself. Taking extra care of people who are most at risk from the consequences of covid-19.

  8. Byd0nz 8

    Regardless of ones political bent and despite the rightwing owned media dumb-ass journos at the press conferences, I doubt any group of leaders in NZ would have done much better than this coalition, except perhaps North Korea or Cuba, given the inhuman sanctions placed against them. So I support this Governments efforts, we know it could be far worse. Jacinda is seen by many here and internationaly as a strong determined and competent person, focused on doing the best thing possible for the people of Aotearoa and I for one salute her.

  9. Maurice 9

    One of worst bit of partisan politics must have been the disbanding of the Epidemic Response Select Committee.

    Both David Seymour and Simon Bridges (with the assistance of the other members – it must be said) did exceptionally sterling service to the Country and Constituents in asking hard questions and holding the players to account.

    The disbanding of this very special Select Committee – before the response has concluded – was unfortunate ….

    …. to say the least.

    • ianmac 9.1

      You do know Maurice that the House is sitting again and the Opposition get to hold the Government to account? Though even though there are 12 questions allocated for Question Time, the opposition didn't bother with only11 Questions last Tuesday and 10 Question last Wednesday.

    • Enough is Enough 9.2

      "before the response has concluded"

      I think you will find many people thought this had concluded when we moved to level 1. Certain people even had a little dance and covid testing stations across the country closed down temporarily.

      It was of course a bit pre-mature but that was the government's mentality when we "eliminated" the virus the first time.

    • xanthe 9.3

      did you actually watch the Epidemic Response Select Committee. yes it was broadcast live during level4. They totally blew it! partisan gotcha games. They had no idea what they were there to do and wern't interested. We are all better off without it as we would be without 90% of our .media

      • Maurice 9.3.1

        Indeed I did watch the televised deliberations of that Select Committee.

        A Select Committee Chaired by Simon Bridges (the then leader of the National Party) ably assisted by David Seymour.

        It gave an unprecedented amount of "oxygen" to the Opposition and televised exposure which must have concerned the Government.

        Certainly more effective than the often correographed Question Time

        It had to be disbanded as soon as possible.

        • xanthe 9.3.1.1

          what exactly do you see as the roll of the opposition?

          does "constructive" appear anywhere in that?

          • Maurice 9.3.1.1.1

            Their role is clearly to "oppose" … by offering constructive critique, constructive alternatives and philosophy. They are NOT there to simply "constructively" support any and all the initiatives and philosophies of the incumbents.

            Our Westminster, constitutional Monarchy system is based firmly upon a combative and confrontational model – which has been refined over several hundred years.

            The worst possible system – except for all the others!

  10. Hanswurst 10

    The worst aspect for me is indeed the Edwards article. The article starts off by de facto posing the question of whether the shortcomings of the systems that were in place prior to the current outbreak constitute botch-ups, then simply adopts the term, without really addressing that question at all. In my (admittedly academically humble) view, that is beneath the requirements for someone whose function as a columnist rests solely in his status as an academic who specialises in analysing political presentation. Unfortunately, that seems consistent with his modus operandi of some years of simply collating existing arguments, without providing much analysis to aid in deciphering existing spin.

    Of course, one could say that that provides a valuable point of departure for readers who want an overview of available media information, but haven't the time to read through all the newspapers themselves. On the other hand, though, such an approach still tacitly accepts the prevailing spin (and with the adoption of the term ‘botch-up’ here, actually takes sides, whether actively or passively, in a debate he is purporting to referee), and it's hard to see how that couldn't be performed by any journalist who reads newspapers, rather than someone of Edwards' qualifications.

    • Patricia Bremner 10.1

      Hanswurst I tried to post about Edwards last night., but had problems. You have summed up his modis operandi very clearly. I think he chooses his position, which mainly supports the right, then patches together a series of articles to reinforce his hypothesis. I have previously written here about that. It gets worse around election time.

    • In Vino 10.2

      Thank you Hanswurst.

      In Open Mike this morning I said Edwards's article reminded me more of the toxic weed-killer 'Round-up" than a balanced, academic view.

      You have just given the justification for what I said, but did not feel energetic enough to analyse and work out for myself..

      Keep it up – lazy oldies like me need you!

    • ianmac 11.1

      Yes Stuart. Funny, wry and on the mark. Wish I had been able to write it in that way.

      However also getting gist of today’s Mediawatch via Twitter. Essential argument seems to be: we are holding them to account and how dare you rag us noble journalists for doing the work of Woodward and Bernstein?

      Okay, I’ll bite. How about: has the holding to account been proportionate to the problem and proportionate to the conduct of the people being upbraided?

      Holding to account is a laudable thing but is that the right thing to call it if you put undue weight on particular failures and mislead by failing to place them in accurate context? Is that the right thing to call it if, in ascribing blame, you ascribe more than is warranted?

  11. Westykev 12

    Can’t directly reply to Ad’s original post from my mobile but I would like to congratulate you on such a balanced reply. Just when I’m about to give up on reading this site due to the very worst of partisan posts (why I don’t bother with reading the Kiwiblog comments) I read your post and it gives me hope for this site yet. Thank you.

  12. Anker 13
    • The last two weeks has been nothing short of a pile on by the media to find any negative aspect to NZ response. This has seemed nothing short of ludicrous..
    • our response to covid has been brave and outstanding. The figures speak for themselves.
    • it wasn’t a failure re the border testing staff. If it was we would have seen multiple outbreaks. To date we have a very large cluster that is being well maintained because some months back the govt audited our contract tracing, found it wanting and corrected it.
    • ok Taiwan has had the best response. But aside from them and Vietnam as far as I am concerned the knockers and complainers should just piss of to another country. Try the Us, UK or what about Melbourne. Utterly sick of the media and everyone else knocking what this govt has done..they could have been testing border staff everyday and the virus could still get through. It’s a fucking virus we are dealing with. No one has ever had to deal with a pandemic caused by this virus before. We are absolutely lucky beyond belief that we live in NZ right now
  13. Peter 14

    We've had Trump go on about New Zealand last week and yesterday Madeline Grant a Telegraph columnist had her churlish go.

    How nice that that our scrawny little country at the bottom of the world can do things that draw the attention of the leaders of the free world and exercise their bitterness glands.

    Of course they're well meaning and it is good to hear the perspectives for the other hemisphere, but why don't they fuck off and look after their own shitholes and their own marvellous ways of doing things.

  14. Drowsy M. Kram 15

    'Catastrophisation' fairly describes opposition political party and MSM 'campaigns' – I can understand why they might be motivated to clutch at ‘catastrophe straws’.

    It’s not a competition, of course, and the NZ health system is labouring under a resource handicap, but really and truly – "We don't know how lucky we are, mate"

    Amazing NZ : 336 cases per mill, 4 deaths per mil
    Australia OK: 975 cases per mill, 20 deaths per mil
    Rp Ireland: 5,655 cases per mil, 359 deaths per mil
    Sweden ??: 8,514 cases per mil, 575 deaths per mil
    U.S. of A.: 17,732 cases per mil, 454 deaths per mil

    BTW: “If New Zealand loses control of the virus, that would be a game changer for the economy. Around the world, we are seeing a sharp divergence in the economic performance of countries that have control of the virus, compared to countries that do not. Countries that have implemented successful lockdowns are generally doing much better economically than countries that have not – illustrating that the ‘choice’ between health and economy was always a false dichotomy.

    All of this suggests that if New Zealand goes into another successful lockdown, it will suffer only incremental additional economic damage, whereas if the virus gets out of control the economy would take a much bigger hit.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/300084767/covid19-should-nz-go-swedens-way

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